An ‘Ideological Food Fight’ (His Words In 2002) Awaits Neil Gorsuch


Publish Date:
March 18, 2017
  • Liptak, Adam
The New York Times
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On April 3, 1962, President John F. Kennedy nominated Byron R. White to the Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him by a voice vote less than two weeks later, after a perfunctory 90-minute hearing during which the nominee smoked cigarettes and doodled while senators praised his legal skills.

On Monday, one of White’s former law clerks, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, will appear at his own Supreme Court confirmation hearing. It will last for days and reflect the brutal politics of a polarized era.

Fifteen years later, the atmosphere has grown even more rancorous and sour. In particular, Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court last year was a shock to the system, said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford.

“The Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court justices has always been cabined by norms of behavior and unwritten rules,” Professor Persily said. “With the failure even to have a hearing on Garland, the norms have all gone out the window. The Democrats now feel emboldened to try anything.”

“The court is increasingly being perceived as a political institution,” Professor Persily said. That means, he said, that the justices “are less likely to be able to rely on the reservoir of good will that they have built up over time because attitudes toward the court are now swaying with the political winds as well.”

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